The third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship on the Long Beach, California street circuit requires a change in mindset from the first two races of the season at Daytona and Sebring. The series goes from the two longest races on the calendar to one of the shortest (100 minutes) and from the 3.56-mile and 3.74-mile circuits at Daytona and Sebring to the 1.968-mile street course at Long Beach.

Long Beach presents a whole new set of challenges that can help you to finish well if you make the right decisions but can also bite you if you don’t or if you just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Turner Motorsport team made the right strategy calls and stayed out of trouble to finish a strong second in the GTD class there, while the pair of BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 prototypes had circumstances work against them in the GTP class.

The Turner Motorsport #96 M4 GT3 driven by Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher started in seventh in GTD, with Gallagher putting in a 1:18.011 lap in qualifying that was a little over a half-second off the pole time of the #89 Lexus. It was in the pits that the Turner team made the difference in the race, putting in a super-fast stop but also electing to not change tires. Foley ended up in third after the other cars cycled through pit stops and made a gutsy move to get past the #27 Aston Martin for second. He then held that position until the end to finish behind the #89 Lexus that started from the pole.

Robby Foley (left) and Patrick Gallagher celebrate their second place finish.

Things didn’t turn out quite as well for the pair of BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 cars in the GTP class. The event started strong for the #25 car of Nick Yelloly and Connor De Phillippi, with Yelloly qualifying second with a 1:11.397 lap, just nine one-thousandths of a second behind polesitter Pipo Derani in the #31 Cadillac. Philipp Eng qualified ninth with a 1:11.999 lap. At the start of the race, Yelloly was passed on the opening lap by Sebastian Bourdais in another Cadillac and was later passed by Nick Tandy in a Porsche but held fourth until pit stops. Unfortunately, there was a caution period just before the planned pit stop for the #25 which resulted in Connor De Phillippi ending up in fifth after the race went green again. De Phillippi had a great battle going with Felipe Nasr in the #7 Porsche, even running into the back of the Porsche after Nasr brake-checked him, but both were able to race on.

Things got worse with around 20 minutes left in the race, when a Lamborghini in the GTD class caused a pileup in the hairpin. Several cars were involved but De Phillippi got the worst of it, as he ran into the back of the errant Lamborghini and then was hit from behind by a Mercedes. The team put new bodywork on and got it back out, but De Phillippi then went into the wall, presumably from some type of damage that was not found during the pit stop. They were classified ninth with the DNF, due to the #40 Acura leaving the race before the BMW.

The #24 M Hybrid V8 of Philipp Eng and Jesse Krohn didn’t have the pace of the #25 car, but they finished up in sixth and scored some points toward the championship. “The field was so close together that it was extremely difficult to move forward,” said Krohn. “Due to the yellow flags, the lapping of the GTD drivers, which we had hoped to take advantage of, did not come into play as expected. That is of course disappointing because the performance of the car was much better than the result. At least we took some points. Now we focus on Laguna Seca.”

After the Long Beach race, Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher were second in GTD driver points behind the Winward Racing Mercedes drivers. In GTP, De Phillippi and Yelloly were sixth in driver points while Eng and Krohn were in seventh. Next up for IMSA is a two hour and forty-minute race at Laguna Seca, and the GTD Pro cars will be back for that race weekend.

—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy LAT Images, BMW]




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